Facts and Stats on DUI in America

DUI is an abbreviation for “driving under the influence.” Driving under the influence is the act of drinking while either drunk or under the influence of a controlled substance. A DUI is a serious crime because it can result in the death or injury of the perpetrator or an innocent bystander. Driving requires focus, and drinking or using drugs impairs concentration as well as slows a driver’s reaction time, drastically increasing the risk of a fatal accident.

Teen Drinking Statistics

Underage drinking is a serious problem in the United States. The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, but in a 2019 federal survey, almost a quarter of teenagers admitted to having at least one drink that year. Underage drinking is particularly worrisome because so many teens binge drink. Binge drinking accounts for 90% of alcoholic drink consumption in teenagers. Ten percent of teenagers surveyed between the ages of 16 and 17 reported binge drinking. Teens who drink are more likely to be the perpetrator or victim of a sexual assault, be arrested, or develop alcoholism. In addition, alcohol plays a role in many teenage deaths. Alarmingly, more than 5% of high school students admitted to drinking and driving in the 2019 survey.

Trends in Alcoholism

Federal research found that 14.1 million adults had alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019; AUD is another name for alcoholism. Many adults are accustomed to having a glass of wine or beer with dinner, but the difference between a casual drinker and an alcoholic is that an alcoholic is dependent on alcohol and cannot stop whenever they want to. An alcoholic needs alcohol to get through the day or handle difficult situations. The 2019 study also found that an estimated 414,000 teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 were alcoholics. Among teenagers, females were more likely to have AUD than males. In adulthood, the statistic is reversed. Unfortunately, people with AUD are extremely unlikely to seek help for their problem. Unlike drug addicts, who are pushed to get help because their substance of choice is often illegal, many alcoholics don’t see the need to enter treatment until a catastrophic event spurs them to get the help they need. Less than 8% of adults with AUD received treatment for their alcoholism in 2019.

Drunk Driving Statistics

There were more than 1 million DUI arrests in the United States in 2016. Drunk drivers who cause fatal accidents are more likely to have been previously arrested for a DUI. But even a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.02%, which often takes only one drink, can hamper a driver’s ability to multitask and reduce the driver’s visual acuity. It’s illegal for anyone to drive with a BAC higher than 0.08% in every state because that level of inebriation significantly affects a driver’s perception, concentration, control, and information processing capability.

Deaths Related to Drunk Driving

Despite the overall decline in drunk driving deaths since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started keeping records of drunk driving incidents in the 1980s, more than 10,000 people still die in fatal drunk driving accidents annually. Drunk driving accidents are completely preventable, but they still account for 28% of driving-related fatalities.

Preventing Drunk Driving

Drunk driving is preventable. You don’t have to get behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking. When you go to a party with a group of friends, take turns being the designated driver. The designated driver is the person who abstains from drinking so that everyone knows that at least one person will be able to safely drive them home. If you’re by yourself, use a ride-sharing service like Lyft or Uber or a taxi to get home. Never get into a car with someone who’s been drinking, even if they were supposed to be your ride home. And don’t feel bad about taking a drunk driver’s keys away. They may be angry at you, but that’s better than the alternative: a fatal car accident, an arrest, or both.

Legal Implications of Drunk Driving

A DUI is a very serious traffic violation. In some states, it’s a misdemeanor or a felony. Many states have an escalating series of sanctions for drivers who are arrested for operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. At the very least, you could be fined for driving drunk, receive a ticket, or have points taken off of your license. If you don’t learn your lesson and keep driving drunk, the courts could suspend your license entirely. You could be convicted of DUI and spend time in jail. Some people lose their job after a DUI conviction goes on their criminal record. Driving drunk and killing someone could mean that you could be imprisoned on felony manslaughter or murder charges and spend 20 years or more in prison.

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